Plucky Woodwind Sounds Part II
Continuing to explore the
unique sounds of mandolins and guitars
including Vivaldi’s La Tempesta Di Mare
featuring Helen Skelton on recorder and flute
under new conductor Tim Smith

Wednesday 29th May
13:00pm - 14:00pm
St Peter's Church
St Peter's Street, St Albans AL1 3HG

Bookings not required
Donations go towards
Rennie Grove Hospice Care
Programme | Flyer

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BMG FEDERATION FESTIVAL, Cambridge 5-7th April 2024

A small group of us participated in this years BMG Federation Festival. Great fun playing awesome music, listening to excellent music and learning from from the best plucked string experts in the UK! We entered a competition, the Francis Day & Hunter trophy for small ensembles and got 1st place, was a pleasant surprise as it was the first time competing as a group! Also made a small performance and recieved good feedback which will help us move forward.
BMG Federation Festival 2024

PLUCKY WOODWIND SOUNDS Part I, 19th November 2023

Was a great concert with a good turnout and an appreciative audience. Thanks again to Helen Skelton on flute and recorder, very much enjoyed performing with her and looking forward to further performances in the New Year! Was the last performance for conductor Vlad Bourceanu after a year with our group we wish him all the best! Raised over £250 for charity Refugee Tales who was also highly appreciative of the amount. Some great feedback - "Friends who came to the concert on Sunday all enjoyed it. I thought the variety of the programme was particularly good, each number being quite different from the previous one.", "I did not know that mandolins could make such different sounds."
Plucky Woodwind Sounds 2023


A very windy day with pegs not strong enough to hold our music but a fun day out and well received! Great sound with our new recorder/flute player Helen Skelton!


Playing again to a full house, meaning more money raised for Rennie Grove Hospice Care! Our performances are going from strength with our inspirational conductor Vlad Bourceanu. Some feedback from the audience - "I just wanted to say how much my wife and I enjoyed your concert (as did the rest of the audience judging by their ovation!!)", "We thoroughly enjoyed your Concert at St. Peter's". Be sure to look out for us again next year!
St Peters Concert 2023

CONCERT FOR FRANK (1955-2022), 6th Nov 2022

Playing to a full house reflecting just how many lives Frank had touched through his work! Raising over £350 for Sue Ryder who was highly appreciative of the amount. Huge thanks to the Kerntiff family, who gave us permission to honor Frank and perform his arranged music as well as helping with the organisation and running of the concert. Was very poignant hearing the thank yous from the Kerntiff family at the end of the concert. First debut of our new conductor Vlad Bourceanu who has helped bring our playing to another level. Great feedback especially for our more complex and thought provoking pieces.
Frank Sue Ryder

About the Phoenix Mandolins

Players at Church Hall

We are a voluntary community group comprised of plucked string instruments mandolins, mandolas, guitars and bass based in St. Albans.

Our group is a result of the merging of the last two remaining mandolin groups north of London, Hatfield Banjo Mandolin Guitar Group (circa 1970s) and Watford Plectra Orchestra (circa 1930s)

We aim to keep the tradition of music for plucked strings alive north of London by encouraging new players to the instruments and encouraging involvement in our concerts

We have a wide range of repetoire from tango, to waltzes, baroque, to folk. We welcome any mandolin and guitar players of any level. Interested? Contact us at for further details.

Combined group in concert

Tim Smith grew up in Harrow and studied Music at UCNW Bangor under William Mathias. Following a period working in music agency and concert promotion he trained as a teacher. Tim has worked in Harrow primary schools for over 25 years and has just retired from classroom teaching. Through school projects Tim has been fortunate to work with musicians from the London Chamber Orchestra, Christopher Warren-Greene, David Hill, Bob Chilcott and members of the BBC Singers. This year Tim celebrates 20 years as Director of Music at St Mary's Church, Harrow on the Hill. He is also Co-Founder/Director of Kids Choir Harrow and, from September 2023, Musical Director of The Castle Choir, Berkhamsted. In January 2024 he was also invited to conduct the Phoenix Mandolin Orchestra, based in St Albans. Tim has been a member of the London Area Committee of the Royal School of Church Music, he chairs the Harrow Deanery Choirs Association, and is Secretary of the Peter Hinkley Trust (which supports the musical education of young people in Harrow). He is married with two adult children (who both sing!).

Combined group in concert

Helen Skelton returned to playing the flute and various recorders in 2018 after a very long break to focus on her family and Civil Service career. Under the guidance of her recorder teacher, Andrew Collis and flute teacher, Ya-Zheng (Judy) Chen MA, RAM she achieved distinction in the Advanced Certificate for recorder and also for flute. She plays with Camden Light Orchestra and attends the North London Society of Recorder Players. She lives in Finchley with her long suffering family and two cats.

In the media

Check us out in the news!

Herts Advertiser 8th November 2023
Herts Advertiser 10th August 2021

If you have missed our radio interview in Dereck Staines Saturday Music Show you can download the full interview below.

Thanks to Dereck Staines and Radio Verulam for playing our music and helping us spread the word on our October 3rd concert!

September 18 2021 Radio Verulam Interview


Here is a sample of our latest recordings taken during practice and in concert! Like what you hear and want join in the fun? Contact us at for further details.

George Gershwin I Got Rhythm Arr Tomaso Gabucci
Jose Pincos Rosita de Cuba
Eileen Pakenham Reverie
Nicola Piovani La Vita è Bella Arr Tomaso Gabucci

Primo Quaia Arr Stuart McGowan Mosella
Trad Arr Frank Kerntiff Down by the Sally Gardens

Want to learn a plucked string instrument?

We recommend these teachers to get started on the mandolin or guitar in St Albans.

After a few lessons, contact us at to join us and put in pratice your knowledge and technique.

Nigel Woodhouse

Nigel Woodhouse has many years experience as a professional musician and he has played in a diverse range of ensembles, both small and large. Unusually for his chosen instruments, (guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo) much of his work has been in various orchestral settings. Nigel has taken part in many concerts with all of the UK's leading orchestras, including numerous appearances at the BBC Proms, as well as recordings and international tours. He has played many onstage parts in the worlds of opera, ballet and theatre, and he is regularly invited to play at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden and English National Opera. In recent years he has been invited to play with the Bergen Philharmonic, as well as touring with the Royal Ballet, playing shows in Shanghai, Washington, Chicago, Tokyo and Yokohama.